All parents struggle from time to time, feeling overwhelmed or too tired to follow through with what they think they should be doing. One of the strongest things to keep you going in those moments is a clear purpose. All parents need something to hold on to when they’re tired, discouraged, overwhelmed, or simply too busy dealing with the demands of life. Some parents burn out — even on a daily basis, because they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Once you understand and apply a clear philosophy of discipline, however, you can reverse the trend of burnout and use it to strengthen your family. This philosophy will allow love, rather than anger, to be your motivation, and your children will know what to expect. Developing a clear philosophy of discipline can give you a foundation that will energize you when day-to-day problems seem overwhelming. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
Tip 1: Focus on the Goals
Your children’s primary job is to learn to obey and honor. Ephesians 6:1-3 reads, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ — which is the first commandment with a promise — ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (NIV).
Sometimes parents think that the goal of family life is closeness. But the reality is that closeness only happens when the individuals in the family have the character that contributes to that. Selfish people have a hard time with closeness. Obedience and honor help children learn to give, not just take, and contribute, not just receive.
Tip 2: Endure the Pain
In the same way that an athlete embraces pain in order to reach a goal, parents must not be surprised by the “pain” encountered in raising children. Adjusting your expectations can help you not take resistance from kids personally but recognize that you have a goal to see your children become disciples, grow in maturity, have integrity, and develop the life-skills necessary for their future.
Some parents are shocked by their children’s poor responses. It’s as if they expect their children to say, “Thanks, Dad, for sending me to my room; I really appreciate the limits you set for me,” or “I appreciate it, Mom, when you make me clean up my toys and make my bed.” Children don’t naturally respond this way. Parents who expect their children to appreciate their discipline will be frustrated.
1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (NIV).
Tip 3: Look for Ways to Make it Positive
You may be thinking, “Yes, I know discipline is supposed to be positive, but how can I be positive when my kids are doing the wrong thing?” Perhaps you are tired and discouraged because you feel you’re being too negative with your children. If so, it’s time to break that cycle and focus on the positive.
Try to state rules and requests in positive terms. Instead of saying, “Don’t shout,” you might say, “We need to talk quietly in this store.” Clearly stating or restating a rule in positive terms gives your child a clear picture of what’s expected and keeps your interaction on a positive note. This simple adjustment can help you as a parent focus on what you want your child to do instead of what you don’t want.
Tip 4: Think Long Term
You’re training your children for the future. You’re not simply changing their behavior to make present circumstances easier. One reason children need to learn to obey their parents is so that they can obey God. Obedience is bigger than a parenting issue. It’s a God issue. When your daughter’s ball rolls into the street and she starts to run after it, you yell, “Stop!” You don’t want her to evaluate your instruction. You want her to instinctively stop at the sound of your voice. This is the kind of obedience children need to develop so they will respond to God in the same way.
So, be strong, rely on the Lord and keep up the valuable work you are doing in your parenting journey, remember, 2 Thessalonians 3:13, “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good” (NIV). Parenthood is partnership with God. Your teaching of godly character provides the basis for spiritual development in your children. Key attitudes such as obedience, submission, and honor toward God are best learned as children and practiced throughout life.
Perhaps your kids have developed some negative character traits along the way. If so, this is not a time for you to beat yourself up with guilt because of the way you’ve disciplined (or not disciplined). Make adjustments now and begin to emphasize different things with your children. You’ll see new changes that will help to round out their development.
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